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5 from 4 votes

Chocolate Almond Cake with Chocolate-Butter Icing

Reine de Saba - Julia's timeless classic with a rich chocolate-butter icing.
Prep Time30 mins
Cook Time25 mins
Total Time55 mins
Course: Cake, Dessert
Servings: 8
Author: Tricia


For the cake:

  • 4 ounces good quality semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
  • ½ cup unsalted butter, room temperature (4oz or 113g)
  • cup granulated sugar, (135g) plus 1 tablespoon, separated
  • 3 large eggs, separated
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 tablespoon rum, or strong coffee (I use dark - not spiced rum)
  • cup ground almonds almond meal or almond flour (36g)
  • ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ cup cake flour, sifted after measuring (53g)

For the icing:

  • 2 ounces good quality semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons rum, or strong coffee
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter (3 ounces)
  • pinch of salt
  • cup sliced almonds (25g)


To prepare the cake

  • Preheat oven to 350F. Grease and flour (or use baking spray with flour) an 8-inch round springform pan, or an 8-inch cake pan with 1 1/2-inch high sides. Line the bottom of the pan with a round of parchment paper.
  • Place 4 ounces of chocolate in a small microwave safe bowl. Microwave on 50% power for 30-seconds, then stir. Repeat 30-second intervals stirring in between until the chocolate is almost completely melted. Set aside stirring occasionally until the chocolate is smooth.
  • In a large mixing bowl combine the butter and 2/3 cup sugar. Beat on medium speed until the mixture is fluffy and lightened in color. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat again. Add the egg yolks and blend on medium-low until the yolks disappear.
  • In a separate medium size bowl using clean beaters, beat the egg whites and salt until foamy. With the mixer running on low, gradually add 1 tablespoon sugar. Increase the speed to high and beat until the egg whites are glossy and stiff peaks form.
  • Pour the melted chocolate into the butter and sugar mixture and stir to combine. Add the rum, almond flour and vanilla extract. Fold in one fourth of the beaten egg whites to lighten the chocolate mixture. Gently fold in one-third of the remaining egg whites and when partially blended, sift one third of the flour into the batter. Repeat by adding 1/2 the remaining egg whites and 1/2 the remaining flour. Add all remaining egg whites and flour and fold together to blend until incorporated. DO not over beat.
  • Gently scoop the batter into the prepared pan. Smooth the top evenly with an offset spatula. Bake in the preheated oven for 25 to 28 minutes. The cake is done when puffed, and set about 3 inches from the sides. A toothpick should come out clean about 2-inches from the side. The center should move slightly if the pan is shaken and a toothpick inserted in the center should come out oily.
  • Allow the cake to cool in the springform pan for 30 minutes. Run a knife around the outside of the cake, then carefully remove the sides. Slide the cake onto a wire rack and cool completely before icing.
  • If using a regular cake pan, allow the cake to cool for 10 minutes, then run a knife around the outside edge of the pan. Turn the cake out onto the wire rack. Cool completely before icing.

To prepare the icing:

  • Once the cake is completely cooled, transfer to a decorative plate or cake stand; set aside.
  • Place ice cubes in a large mixing bowl enough to cover the bottom. Add cold water to cover the ice; set aside.
  • Place the chopped chocolate in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave on 50% power for 30-seconds, then stir. Repeat until the chocolate is melted and smooth. Add the butter, one tablespoon at a time, stirring until incorporated before adding the next. Repeat until all butter is blended. Add the rum and salt and stir until incorporated.
  • Place the bowl with the chocolate frosting in the ice water bath. Whisk until the chocolate mixture cools and comes to spreading consistency. Quickly spread the frosting over the top and sides of the cake. Press sliced almonds around the sides or top of the cake, if desired.
  • Refrigerate leftovers.


Recipe adapted from Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle and Simone Beck
DO NOT use chocolate chips for the cake or icing.